It is the common and public belief that all bacteria = BAD.
Although this belief comes from the notion that bacteria is the one reason that our health goes from good to bad so easily, public view has accidentally lumped ALL bacteria, both the good and the bad, as enemies of the body.
We have talked at length about how antibiotics can be damaging to the bacteria communities in your body if not set up correctly, but one common practice that we have not mentioned that you use everyday is also wiping out your body’s bacteria:
What is this bacteria burning substance? It is none other than our often minty friend: mouthwash.
Mouthwash, like antibiotics, wipe out bacteria (the bad AND the good)
Mouthwash is helpful for many reasons (temporarily fresher breath being the biggest), but a common belief is that mouthwash is a cure-all for all of your oral needs.
This is simply untrue.
This false belief is due much to the marketing efforts of the mouthwash companies trying to sell more of their mouthwashes, as they overly describe how “powerful” it is for your mouth.
Mouthwash is designed to be a hunter and killer of germs and bacteria. It’s able to fight germs so intensely because of the ingredients used (often a blend of chemicals or some form of harsh alcohol).
Mouthwash is terrific for freshening breath and perhaps even helpful in some cases of helping issues like gingivitis and halitosis. But it is extremely harsh on the microflora community of your mouth. Just like your gut, your mouth hosts a living community of both good and bad bacteria that needs to be kept in balance. Just like how antibiotics wipe the slate clean rather than support a healthy microflora, mouthwash depletes the entire community.
Although the short term effects of mouthwash are enjoyable, there are other ways to clean out your mouth besides gum and tongue stinging mouthwashes. The method to how we came across it was done simply by thinking… “what did we all do before there was mouthwash?”
The answer was a daily practice called “oil pulling”.
Oil pulling -- what is it and how it can help your mouth
Named after the swishing movement that it involves (also sometimes referred to as ‘oil swishing’), this 3,000 year old practice comes from India and involves, as you may have already guessed --swishing out your mouth with oils.
Sesame oil, olive oil and sunflower oils are often recommended, but the most popular for this kind of mouth care is coconut oil. As long as the oil is unrefined and organic it should bring about the most positive results.
How to clean your mouth by Oil Pulling:
- At least 3 times a week, before you eat, drink or even brush your teeth --place 1 tablespoon of coconut oil on your tongue. For 10-20 minutes, swish the oil over the surface of your entire mouth: over and under your tongue, against your cheeks, in between your teeth. Anywhere you can swish the oil-- swish it.
- 10-20 minutes is a good amount of time, so don’t try to exhaust your jaw muscles by vigorously swishing right at the start. Slow and steady.Right when you wake up and head to the bathroom to start your morning routine is probably easiest time to begin your oil pulling. In those 10-20 minutes, use that time to plan your day, pick out your outfit, set up your coffee machine, even prepare your kids lunches --just be sure to keep your mouth closed as you swish so no oil escapes!
- Once those 10-20 minutes are up --be careful not to swallow the oil! Spit it all out in the trash can instead of the sink (a couple weeks of oil buildup down the drain can cause some serious pipe clogging). The oil you spit out should be a cloudy white color because of all the bacteria and excess food that it has been picked up. After spitting out the oil, your mouth should feel smooth and clean --as if you just climbed out of the dentist chair!
- Once you’ve spat out the oil, feel free to begin your routine as usual --go ahead and brush your teeth and drink water as normal.
So, what does oil pulling do for me?
Oil pulling does much of what mouthwash does (minus obliterating the good bacteria communities you have living in your mouth).
Germs and bacteria are living cells, and all cells have a membrane that surrounds them (think of this membrane as their tiny “skins”). When you swish with oil rather than mouthwash, the oil acts as a kind of magnet for fats, lifting out the germs and bad bacteria from your mouth. Add that powerful pulling power with the fact that you are swishing for 20 minutes (compared to 30 seconds with mouthwash) and that can add up to a huge difference in oral health.
Rather than using mouthwash to reset your microflora every morning in the battle that is your mouth, target the germs and bad bacteria. This will help support the good bacteria and increase your chances of a healthier mouth rather than just a fresh feeling tongue.
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Singh, Abhinav, and Bharathi Purohit. “Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. 2011.
"Oil Pulling: Fact Vs. Fiction (Plus A Remineralizing Oil Pull Chews Recipe)." Ask the Dentist. N. p., 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
"What Is The Best Oil For Oil Pulling?." Earthclinic.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Oakley, Colleen. “Should You Try Oil Pulling?” WebMD.com. 2014.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.